How to build culture in a football program

How do you define culture?

The term culture is thrown around by football coaches all the time and people argue about what it means, how to build it, and its importance all the time.

Now, I’m not going to dive into all those arguments and discussions, but I do want to share with you how I have thought about it in my years coaching.

Here’s what I believe culture is:

“The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize your program.”

In other words, it’s how everyone thinks, speaks, and acts.

Now, every football team has a culture and you’ve got to be honest when you evaluate what yours is.

Ask you coaches and players these questions:

“What are we about?”

“What do we want others to say about us?”

And if you get a bunch of different answers, then you’ve got some work to do in order to align everyone and build the culture you want your team to carry.

But how do you do that?

It all starts with laying down some Core Values that you can articulate and then teach to your student leaders so that they can become ambassadors of the Core Values. This will then lead to the culture you want to see in your program.

As the leader of the program, you cannot be everywhere and you cannot do everything.

It is vital to the success of your Core Values that you teach them to others and promote them in others.

This stuff takes time, there is no doubt about it.

But without Core Values, I’d argue that you don’t have culture.

Now, you might tell me different, but I’ll contest that. If you can’t define what you stand for, then you really don’t stand for anything.

At my first two stops as a head coach, we did not have Core Values.

Now, we won a few games, but we didn’t do it in the way that I would do it now and I am saddened by the fact that I was not able to impact those players in the way I know a coach should.

Here are a few examples:

And you’ve got to have definitions for every Core Value because as I learned from Randy Jackson, If you don’t define it, you’ll never achieve it.

Now, don’t go take other people’s Core Values and just present them to your team — they need to come from you and your team.

You’ve got to have buy in from your players and they have to be something your players care about.

Here’s how you create your team’s Core Values:

First, I meet with all the coaches at my house, and we have a few beers and just talk about it.

We get on the white board and just start getting all our ideas out.

Ultimately, everything needs your stamp of approval, but your coaches need to be a part of the process so there is buy in from them as well.

Once you’ve come up with about ten or so, you can present them to the players.

So, we’ll take a day off from the weight room and get everyone together in front of the Core Values we came up with in the coaches meeting.

You then need to explain to your players what is important to you and your staff. Generally, your players will follow your lead, but you still need to take the time and define every Core Value that you present so that your players can see if they see themselves in them.

Then have your players submit the five Core Values that they want to represent their program.

As a staff, then rank them and see which show up the most. However, as the person in charge, you still need to be the one with the final say.

Now, after you’ve got your Core Values, have yourself and then your assistants talk about one Core Value every single day.

So, on Mondays it might be Discipline and Tuesday is Academic Excellence and so forth.

But you need to make sure everyone in your whole program knows what the Core Values are and can define them.

So, in conclusion, “you’ve got to define it if you want to achieve it.”

Take the time to do this now, early in the off season, so that you can truly instill in your players good values that they can carry for the rest of their lives.

Remember, spend time on your players more than your playbook!

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